298 Comments
Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

You missed, as far as I can tell, one key point: by getting a bunch of well-educated kids, many of whom are likely going to end up in the progressive wing of the Democrats, to do something like this…

You’re going to create a medium-sized constellation of driven people within the coalition who support fixing policing but also have an understanding of the realities, sympathy for the people who do the job, and at least a decent idea of what reforms can and can’t work.

This is something that the progressive left just clearly does not have at present.

TL;DR: the important mechanism will be to change the progressive movement, not the police.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

I think that was definitely on Matt's radar in this piece -- indeed, it struck me as one of the central benefits Matt was touting:

"perhaps develop more moderate, meliorist views of viable approaches to change."

"a corps of reformers who have law enforcement credibility and perhaps a more realistic perspective than a lot of what’s on offer today"

"creating a corps of reformers who have the credibility of former classroom teachers — while also recognizing that the teachers themselves have some important and valid insights. And my hope would be that we could generate some similar effects in the policing space."

Combined with Matt's point that "Once you get past the fantasy that we can wish policing away or “reimagine” public safety in a way that doesn’t involve guys with uniforms and guns, you’re left with the fact that the policing status quo is bad and also hard to change." I would say that this point of view isn't so much an implicit as an explicit goal of Matt's proposal.

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As I say below, a pair of oblique references and several even more oblique comments inviting comparison is pretty indirect compared to what Matt normally says.

The reality is that, as much as the status quo of policing in the US requires considerable reform, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has no bloody clue what it's doing and is making things steadily (or rapidly, lol) worse, disproportionately harming the vulnerable folks about whom it claims to care most.

The single most important effect of such a program on the current challenges we face will be to puncture the bubble in which well-educated young people dwell on these issues by presenting a great number of them with peers and friends who have "seen the elephant."

The second-most important would hopefully be to thread folks from these backgrounds within police forces in quantity enough that they start to impact, on their own and without further reforms, the culture of impunity and apartness which has taken root within many organizations.

TL;DR: Bubbles bad, for both police and would-be reformers, and Matt understands this. He is normally roughly as direct in his hippy-punching as he is in his square-punching, but pulled a lot of former here.

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Yes! (The long and comprehensive version of my response)

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Does anyone know the gender makeup for TFA? I tried to find it, but while they have a bunch of diversity info on the website, I can't actually find that breakdown. I ask, because my initial thought was that TFA is a great line to put on your resume if your going to the non profit world which is ~75% women. Teaching is about ~75% women and there are some strong similarities in peer groups. In contrast, police are currently ~13% women and 87% men. I think a program to balance that number would be good, but I think a Police for America would face significant challenges in a successful launch because of that difference.

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founding

Entirely anecdotal, but 8/10 people I remembered off the top of my head who did TFA from my class at UCLA are male. At least 5 are now working in tech, 1 in consulting, and another is a VP at a major entertainment firm. It appealed to people who didn’t really know what they wanted to do but, unlike me, did not stupidly choose law school to delay actually figuring it out.

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What do you think keeps women out of policing? Relatedly, it would be interesting to know if the countries whose police culture the left wants to emulate are also gender imbalanced wrt police forces.

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Women in law enforcement face the same problems as women in any other field where promotion is based on physical performance. This becomes further complicated by the fact that arrests and other physical altercations involving female officers and male suspects will escalate more quickly than male-only encounters given the lack of alternatives to aggressive or even lethal force. Particularly in today's law enforcement environment in which cameras are ubiquitous, female officers are being setup for failure unless they can quickly be reassigned to roles that don't require physical confrontations with violent suspects.

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Is policing based on physical performance? Seems like there's a lot more that goes into policing: administrative skills, communication, critical thinking, observation, memorization, bravery, PR, good driving, conscientiousness, projecting credibility, respectfulness, and empathy, etc. And all the research indicates that encounters with women officers are LESS likely to escalate than with men. Women officers generally have fewer excessive use of force complaints against women, and aren't sued as often as men officers.

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Beyond what Matthew A mentions - I think you run into the uncomfortable feeling of being a noticeable minority. I don't have the data to back this up, but I suspect that large urban forces are significantly higher than 13%, but that smaller departments are often likely to be all men. Which is unfortunate IMO. From personal experience, I've worked on all male teams before, and adding women brings both a diversity of perspective and experience while also tamping down some of the excessive stupidity that men can display.

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Being smaller and weaker Tham most of the people they might have to subdue.

Also probably can't run as fast especially carrying weight

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We can also compare to the US when there were fewer women police officers. I can't find the link now but from what I remember, increasing gender diversity lead to reductions in homicides and domestic violence through people feeling more comfortable reporting certain crimes to women.

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I don't think it's statistically that different from the gender make-up of teachers in general

source: TFA alum/employee

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I agree, and I believe so did the article. Last paragraph before mentioning Wendy Kopp.

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He touches the idea obliquely twice, but I think he is shying away from hippy-punching on this one because the hippies are the intended audience.

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That's fair, and though I'd characterize the audience for the policy as progressives, the audience for this article is more mixed/moderate. But splitting hairs.

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Counterpoint: a TFA model for policing could be a really really bad idea! TFA gives "elite" grads a crash course over the summer in teaching instruction and then throws them into the high poverty areas. Failures in teaching are relatively low profile, while an analogous policing failure would be all over the news. It's pretty easy to imagine a 20-something Yale grad (hi, Milan!) shooting a minority at a traffic stop and it turning into a national story. And policing probably relies a bit more on camaraderie than teaching does (not that teaching doesn't, but you're not in a classroom with another teacher all day long). What happens when the existing police officers start hanging the PFA kids out to dry? Again, pretty easy to imagine.

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I don’t find it “easy to imagine a 20-something Yale grad shooting a minority at a traffic stop”—instead, I find it very hard to believe any Yale grad would touch such a program with a ten foot pole. It’s one thing to get idealistic young people to try teaching, which means interacting with children—most people like kids—and quite another to get them to volunteer for the “mean streets” interacting with possible criminals. Policing is seen (unfortunately) as a job for tough guys, working class military veterans, maybe someone with an associate’s degree in criminal justice. I think a more promising path may be to recruit among working class minorities coming out of high school, offer them free college in exchange for going into policing, somewhat like we do with military recruiting.

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Realistically, a program like this would be aiming for grads of Regional State University, not Yale. Which is fine. For Teach for America, to make a difference you needed to attract grads of prestigious schools, as the baseline teacher *already* goes to RSU. But for police, RSU grads would represent just as large an improvement over baseline.

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If Ivy League schools can have ROTC (and they do), I don't see why they can't have a few prospective police officers.

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Just like ROTC, at least a few Ivy League kids would choose this program because they think it would look good for their future electoral career.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

I think you’re all over-stereotyping them! Sure there are a bunch who are like that (and you see some of them down the line in the public eye creating this misimpression), but there are so so many more who have no such plans or ambitions whatsoever. Ivy League schools are part of real life, not some school version of “succession” or what have you.

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Not only is the military held in higher esteem than the police -- cops don't get to board airplanes early -- but going into the armed forces as an officer after ROTC is just more prestigious than starting as a rookie cop.

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I think you’re over generalizing about Ivy League students. Some of them would be open to it. At the same time however, there is no particular mystique about them, and I don’t think they’re likely to do a better or worse job than candidates from other selective colleges.

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Actually I don't think this would have a lot of appeal to students at Whatever State U, either, unless they were the sort (the rare sort) already interested in police work. It's not a stretch to get liberal arts grads interested in teaching, it's a huge stretch to bring them over to law enforcement. BTW, I think we very much need to get people who wouldn't normally think of entering law enforcement to consider it as a career if we are ever to have serious reform away from the current paramilitary model.

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Progress creates new problems. One great thing that has continually improved for people is we have more career options. But the downside is it does lead to significant personality segregation by profession.

Both conservatives and liberals have organically self-segregated into certain professions. And I don't think this is a great development.

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I agree with you on who this program should target. But the program would have to do an exceptional job, as the military usually has, of turning knuckleheads into decent, accountable young people.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 27, 2022

"It's pretty easy to imagine a 20-something Yale grad (hi, Milan!) shooting a minority at a traffic stop and it turning into a national story."

Now I'm picturing Milan as Dirty Harry:

I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking, "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Now to tell you the truth, I've forgotten myself in all this excitement. So I prepared a graphic visualization displaying information from the area's "Shot Spotter" system and it clearly shows only five shots whose audio signature matched that of a .44 Magnum in the past 24 hours, so you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel like I have sufficient data to make an informed decision?" Well, do ya', punk?

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If only Substack allowed a "tears of laughter" response emoji... 😂

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Best comment I have read in a long time!

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“a crash course over the summer in teaching instruction”

Is this very different from the status quo of police academies?

“What happens when the existing police officers start hanging the PFA kids out to dry?”

This is a scary problem with the idea, I agree. But as far as I can tell, “the biggest problem with police reform is the police staff” is a problem for every other potential avenue of change, too.

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No disagreement from me on this. My point (which could've used more articulation) is that TFA's strategy is centered around good publicity and having their alums in positions of influence. It's savvy for sure, but there's still a lot of contention about outcomes which Matt glosses over a bit. All of the issues with TFA would be magnified in a policing model, where the employees carry guns and all of the existing employees would be significantly more hostile to being "disrupted."

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And to briefly defend existing police officers a bit. The cultural animosity is a two way street.

I'm equally concerned the UCLA grad will say talking to the Walgreens cashier about a shoplifter is beneath me. The dumb brutes can do it as I should be focusing on the cognitively demanding police tasks that are too complicated for you.

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I think the better opportunity is figuring out how to diversify police forces. The attraction of policing is it’s a relatively high paying job for someone without educational credentials, and it’s culturally attractive to do it in certain circles. Interestingly even high crime cities like Detroit with diverse police forces seemed to weather 2020 much better than lower crime cities policed entirely by white exurban Trump voters (Minneapolis).

Also like it or not, affluent suburbanite parents think of policing as dangerous even if they might be liberal police critics. They won’t let their kids become police.

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Is diversity really the panacea though? Wasn’t everyone involved in the Freddie Gray situation Black?

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Not a panacea but I think it’s the absolute minimum for any chance at success. As someone who has lived in both NYC and Minneapolis, the relatively diverse NYPD isn’t perfect but at least seemed somewhat respected. Minneapolis PD (composed almost entirely of exurban white Trump voters) is hated by everyone who lives in the city. And while murders in NYC increased in 2021, they lost about a decade of progress while Minneapolis had record murder rates

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I’d agree with that. I recently moved from Atlanta which also had a pretty diverse police force, and I do think it helps.

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"even high crime cities like Detroit with diverse police forces seemed to weather 2020 much better than lower crime cities policed"

There's a very simple explanation for this - most of the energy for disruptive protests and clashes with police came from white liberal media bubbles. If you look up maps of where BLM protests happened, it tracks big city progressive of whatever race, not % population of Black people or other minorities.

A city like Detroit has relatively few liberal progressive. Very progressive, very white cities like Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis did way worse than cities like Houston, Atlanta, Dallas or New Orleans. And the existing racial polarization of the South (whites there vote way more for the GOP) means that whites on those police forces would have been much more Trump-voting than whites on the Minneapolis police force.

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Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis have pretty similar demographic histories that I think explain some of the similarly dysfunctional situations in the three. (Boston is a pretty blue city and didn't have a CHAZ) It'd be fun to read a longer article exploring that.

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Good point. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that it's a deterministic relationship. there are many local factors and some randomness - Ferguson isn't a White Liberal bastion either.

But still, I do think it's the trend. In earlier eras of racial unrest the flash points where majority Black areas like urban Detroit and Cleveland, Watts and South Central LA etc...

But the flash points in this round were more often places like Kenosha. There were no riots that I'm aware of and relatively few protests in Mobile, Selma or New Orleans, and I think that really says something about where the outrage was coming from.

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How does Philly track this? Its demographics are more like NYC than Minneapolis but the results seem closer to the latter at the moment.

We're obviously no Portland, and our police force is much more "homegrown" than in Minneapolis, but it seems that we have generated the same problem as those two: a significant fraction of our police force is unwilling to do its job (the occupying army fanboys), another significant fraction feels unable (the ones who feel no one has their back on dirty necessities), and the remainder are too exhausted (the ones who are trying anyway).

Our current dirt-bike and ATV fiasco is pretty indicative: these idiots have killed 2 pedestrians YTD, and apparently last year killed 5-6. But it's approaching 100% certain that any measures able to get them off the street will cause at least some to suffer severe and potentially lethal accidents, and the police clearly have *no* confidence that that reality is well-understood by the citizenry, the city government, or the DA's office.

So they're left to continue endangering themselves and others, because no one will tolerate the very marginal uptick in danger which would occur if we made a real effort to bring them to heel.

I suspect the endgame, in a few years' time, when everyone is well and truly sick of this, will be that an Adams-esque mayoral candidate comes to office on a platform of "I don't care if a few of them get killed, we're getting them off the streets permanently."

Hopefully that person turns out to be less of a lazy, loafer-type than Adams himself.

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I dunno. Philly actually crossed my mind as I was writing my prior comment because it seemed like a particularly dysfunctional outlier, and I don't even know where to place it on the spectrum of liberal or bad police relations. But it's a city I'm fairly oblivious to and (no offense) I've actively avoided my entire life, lol.

What is going on there with ATVs? Who is riding them? Cops or citizens? I came across something a little similar that might be happening in LA, in this video the tour guide to Compton says they get 500-1000 friends together and ride motorbikes and call it a "takeover" and he says the police used to pull them over and "bother them and take their shit" but now they do nothing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CM0_is3Gfg&t=223s

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Lol, your entire life was spent between a 5-hour drive and a 5-hour plane trip away, did it really require significant active avoidance?

I didn't set foot in Pittsburgh until a few years ago, and I'm in my 30's.

Anywho, it's pretty much as you describe in LA; bunch of people decide to be stupid together and the city government lacks any willingness to enforce the law, so lots of them get hurt and occasionally they manage to kill someone else.

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Maybe I'm still just butthurt that UPenn rejected me, I haha

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it seems like I'm some places at least at least an associates degree is required. has been for years in Montgomery County MD

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"The attraction of policing is it’s a relatively high paying job for someone without educational credentials..."

I think that this is highly dependent on location.

Outside of bigger cities, police are generally paid pretty poorly. Even in comparison with a lot of non-college-educated people.

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Maybe diversifying police departments (forcibly via quotas?) would be more effective than MY's idea. Maybe.

But I think MY's idea would be relatively easy for the public to swallow. If we go the diversity-quota route, prepare to wait decades for widespread implementation.

(And that pessimism is based on public opinion alone. Another bottleneck might be a lack of non-white jobseekers.)

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Many police departments have had racial quotas for decades. Here's an AP story on Cincinatti ending its racial quotas in 2021 after 40 years in place:

https://apnews.com/article/business-police-courts-ohio-discrimination-4ddb3349ae089adb23f38b8adce82bf6

I don't know that the average person, of any race, cares about these kinds of issues as much as the average liberal does, though. Are you more worried about getting pulled over by a Black or Hispanic or Asian cop than a White one? I'm not. I know plenty of people do think that way, but it's not a habit of thought that should be encouraged since it's relatively low down the scale of things that can impact an interaction with a police officer.

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Assuming we actually train these kids the same way we do other police (which is, yes, too short, but that's obviously where we would start):

I would assume that the narrative for "20-something Yale grad (hi, Milan!) shooting a minority at a traffic stop and it turning into a national story" would look almost identical to how it does today with any police, if it happens in the first year. But the whole point of the exercise, at least from my perspective, is to pierce the bubble in which the chattering classes exist when it comes to policing.

If the program survives, what happens in 10 or 20 years when most college graduates know someone who went and did police work for 2-3 years and a third know someone who made it into a life-long career/vocation, like is currently true for TFA? Can the university-educated core of the progressive movement maintain its current delusions about the nature of police work in the US and the value it does/doesn't bring to society?

I'd guess no.

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I actually think progressives learning more about policing first-hand would be a great benefit to our coalition.

A lot of progressives view police officers the way conservatives view academics: through a distorted lens.

Since both are extremely under-represented, non-particularly interested in it, and pre-disposed to view them negatively, absurd stereotypes flourish.

I've met a lot of normal liberals who call police forces stormtroopers and if you're actually familiar with Nazi troopers that is no less outlandish than conservatives who call academics Leninists/.

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Coming at this from a San Francisco perspective, I don't see how this would solve my city's problems.

We have a crime and homelessness problem because:

- the city (and state) chooses not to prosecute most small-ish theft

- drug use isn't prosecuted

As a result, people come to SF from around the country because the weather is nice and they can live in a tent, steal small things for money, and use that cash for drugs, all with relatively little trouble.

I don't think the situation is bad because the cops aren't smart enough.

It's the politicians and policy-makers not understanding the consequences of what they're doing.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

I thought the idea that homeless people come from all over the country to California because of the weather and liberal values has been mostly debunked. Instead, most homeless people come from the communities where they live and the main driver is high housing costs.

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From what I know, the "it's debunked" view is more correct on the regional level. So you might be right about California as a whole.

But on the more local level, local policies and policing are much more impactful. It's self-evident that the 5,000 people on LA's skid row, for example, originally came from somewhere else, even if that somewhere is just somewhere in LA.

So why are they concentrated there and not somewhere else in LA? That's where the local policies come in. SF is a much smaller city than LA and has policies that concentrate the high-crime homeless locally.

So you're right, most probably didn't come from Ohio to smash windows in Haight-Ashbury. But David R's reasons are good explanations for why so many disruptive homeless live in SF and not in Mountain View or Victorville.

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deletedSep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022
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I think it’s pretty natural that homeless people within a metro area would congregate in dense urban environments in which services, public transit, etc are available and not in sparsely populated suburbs where there’s no foot traffic, few buses, and few public amenities. So that may explain more why homeless people congregate more in downtown SD than in La Jolla, or in Miami than in Palm Beach, or in SF rather than Mountain View.

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Sure but, at least in the areas I'm familiar with (Los Angeles, for example) the homeless will sometimes be forcibly removed from a less tolerant area and bussed to a more tolerant area. All the things about amenities can be true, also, but those big sweeps are pretty massive needle-movers.

Just as an anecdote on the off-chance that you're familiar with the area, but Pasadena, CA, had plenty of homeless services when I lived there, but the small number of homeless were fairly off-the-radar. If I was homeless I'd far prefer there to the jungles of skid row or East Hollywood, but the latter places are where they ended up.

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deletedSep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022
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I think the high-housing costs thing had been debunked. At least you may be talking about 2 different populations. The vast majority of people shitting on the sidewalk and committing petty thefts are mentally I’ll and/or are chronic drug users who aren’t able to hold down jobs or pay rent...there is a subset of people between jobs / living in their cars / temporarily down on their luck affected by high housing costs...the temporarily homeless crowd. But they’re a small share of the overall numbers.

And when it comes to housing costs - policies in my state (OR) are so unfriendly to landlords, it’s no surprise there’s a housing shortage. If you have no recourse against tenants who are a high risk for not paying rent or damaging your property, you’re not going to take on renters.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

It would be good if people claiming things have been debunked cited some data, otherwise you get situations like this where two people with opposing views both claim the other's have been debunked.

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Fair enough.

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on this particular issue, briross is right, the literature is pretty clear

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

On the contrary, the link between housing costs and homelessness has been effectively proven, not "debunked".

https://homelessnesshousingproblem.com/

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Scott Alexander had a pretty good/fair take on "Homelessness Isn’t Just About Housing" claims in his review of San Fransicko.

https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/book-review-san-fransicko

"... San Francisco’s mild climate alone can’t explain why it has more homeless people per capita than Miami or Houston. But as the graph above shows, housing prices do explain about 75% of the difference between SF and those two cities. "

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Drug use and mental health problems are both a cause and effect of homelessness. Most of the country has seen a decline in homelessness over the last ten years. Every place that has seen an increase is a place where housing costs have skyrocketed. Seems like an open and shut case to me.

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The correlation seems muddy to me. When I look at housing cost curves, they look almost identical in SF, Portland, Las Vegas, Houston, eg - yet only Portland and San Francisco have seen increases . Then a city with (relatively) modest housing price growth like Albuquerque has seen their homeless population triple in the last 2 years.

Subsidized housing will definitely help a portion of people...I just think it’s a multidimensional problem. Eg here’s a complicated factor: eviction moratoriums put in place for the pandemic are now expiring, causing homeless numbers to spike in some places... that’s bad in the short term, but probably *good* in the long term as it will encourage property owners and investors to put more property up for rent.

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Houston appears to have tackled homelessness in a more direct way than those other cities and is an outlier. Nevada on the other hand has had one of the most rapid growths in homelessness in the country. They might do more to kick people out of Vegas, but all that does is shuffle them to other nearby areas.

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*Mentally ill - not mentally i’ll - 🙄

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Since we were talking about the police/maintaining the peace - I was referring specifically to the vast majority of shoplifters and sidewalk shitters as being addicts/mentally ill. Not necessarily the vast majority of all homeless.

And your study mentions mentally ill - not sure if it includes drug and alcohol addiction.

The ‘housing cost’ argument is fine - it doesn’t help to have a lack of cheap housing. But focusing on housing to the exclusion of other factors - which the ‘housing first’ crowd seems to want to do - seems like a dodge... they want me to believe that the median homeless person is just an average stable person who couldn’t afford rent...so instead of crashing on a friends couch or moving to a cheaper town or getting a roommate, they decided to live in a trash heap in the park and crap on your front porch and scream nonsense at passers-by...No, I don’t think so.

Homelessness is a function of housing prices AND mental Illness and addiction and local policy enforcement (or lack thereof) and climate and lack of a safety net and probably some other stuff...

FWIW - in 2019 the San Francisco health department estimated that 50% of their homeless population (sheltered and unsheltered) suffered from BOTH mental health and substance abuse issues, with another 5-10% being either/or. Below is a 2019 LA Times article and attached UCLA study saying incidence of addiction and mental illness among LA’s homeless population is between 70% and 80%. They touch on reasons why numbers are often understated (self-reporting is unreliable, flaws in how govt collects data - a common source for researchers, and the bias of homeless advocates to de-emphasize anything that takes away from the homeless-as-victim narrative.) https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-10-07/homeless-population-mental-illness-disability

But I’m with you - let’s subsidize housing, but let’s also not pretend mental illness and addiction aren’t major factors too. And let’s not pretend we can solve the problem without 1) rebuilding mental health facilities and services 2) funding more addiction services, AND just as important 3) expecting that slice of addicted/mentally ill recipients of subsidized housing - whether it’s 25% or 80% - to seek and maintain treatment for their issues and 4) not tolerating city destroying behavior - whether you’re homeless or homeful - you get arrested if you shit/shoot up on the sidewalk, threaten people/behave violently, steal things, disturb the peace, etc. It’s not ‘housing first’ - it’s more like an ‘all of the above’ approach.

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The Seattle Times has a series on homelessness and in one of their articles, they mentioned that about 30% of all the homeless people living on the street have hoarding disorder, which partly explains why there are often giant piles of trash next to a homeless person's tent. I don't know if it's usually considered a serious mental illness, but that's an incredibly high rate just for one mental illness.

Having hoarding disorder also makes it difficult for a person to move into subsidized housing because they may not be able to bring all their stuff with them, but it also means they're more likely to get evicted over safety issues. They may also leave housing because they accumulate more stuff than they can keep. Homeless people with hoarding disorder probably need much more than just housing. On the other hand, housing first probably solves the problem for a lot homeless single mothers.

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That’s hoarding disorder secondary to meth and other trauma, generally

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I agree almost completely. I say almost because I think housing is the primary cause of homelessness. The correlation between prices and rate of homelessness is just too high for it to be otherwise.

But drug addiction, anti-social behavior and mental illness are exacerbating factors and it's tiresome when otherwise sharp writers and analysts like Yglesias pretend like they are not a part of the equation.

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I think if you could get a decent studio apartment and pay $325 a month for it, like I had in Memphis in 2008-10, a lot of the mentally ill and addicts would be housed, and I think we should build enough housing to make that the equilibrium price point for a studio.

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But what is the % breakdown of mentally ill between the highly visible "public nuisance" homeless and quietly struggling borderline-invisible homeless?

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There are a lot of "invisible" homeless -- folks who lost their job, can't make the rent, and are living in their cars or crashing on couches. These folks aren't a crime problem. The visible homeless, the ones hanging out on the street, I argue are much more likely to be mentally ill or have drug problems.

The study you cite notes this and, I might add, says that the 25% is "at a minimum" and that 45% had some level of mental illness.

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Sorry to read about your troubles & glad that things now seem back on track.

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I have become increasingly skeptical of the research around homelessness, particularly around people who are visibly homeless in many cases the research is clearly partisan or the conclusions are obviously absurd.

For instance, here in Seattle we were assured that homeless encampments absolutely did not lead to more crime and anyone who believes that is watching too much Sinclair media. Then the city released data on 911 calls. Almost 1/5 calls for guns shots/someone shot were related to homeless encampments.

My best guess is that this research is being conducted by people with a partisan agenda.

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I regularly read the homicide report feature from the LA Times. No reason other than I'm very interested in crime and I guess I'm just a morbid guy. Homeless people are a hugely disprorportionate source of both victims and perpetrators in LA

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What's weird is that activists who claim to care about homeless people wave aside the crime problem. If they really want to improve the lives of people in these encampments, an important place to start is to reduce the amount of crime, particularly violent crime in these encampments.

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If the cost of housing drove people onto the street, why would you choose to live on the sidewalk in an expensive neighborhood in SF when apartments that are less than 1/2 the price are available a bus ride away?

How many middle-class people have tolerated 1-hour commutes in order to get a cheaper place?

When you see someone on the street, do you think it's because they decided "This is better than the bus ride"?

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When you get kicked out of your rental because you don't have the money to pay rent then you also don't have the money for first and last months rent somewhere else. Homeless people live near where they can get services (like a mission) or near transit centers that can move them around. If you are actually curious (instead of just wanting to one-up people on the internet) you can read lots of articles that describe how people become homeless and how they get by once that happens. There is no one reason that people become homeless, it's always a bunch of reasons. Most grew up around abuse and drugs, but nowhere near all of them. Many have mental health disorders, but not all of them. It's a complex problem that requires complex solutions, but it's been proven beyond reasonable doubt by lots of different economists that high housing costs make the problem much worse. Matt has written on the subject many times, feel free to go back and read them.

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There are definitely some homeless people that move around the country, and who choose to go to California for the weather. But there are plenty of places with great weather that have declining homeless populations, and one the biggest explosions in homelessness has been in NYC which obviously does not have great weather at all. So yes, this is all about housing costs. But I would be careful about saying that homeless people don't move to California.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

Here’s some data from LA County.

https://documents.lahsa.org/Planning/homelesscount/2016/factsheet/2016-HC-Results.pdf

Among homeless people >24 years old, 70% have lived in LA county over 20 years, with only around 6% having arrived within the past year. 70% were last stably housed in LA county with another 10% last being stable housed elsewhere in California.

Among homeless youths (age 18 to 24), there is a greater proportion of recent transplants. However, still 67% were last stably housed in LA County, and still more elsewhere in California.

We don’t know what percentage of homeless transplants moved there for the weather. And sure it does seem that some wanderers do indeed exist, but they are by no means the majority of even major drivers of homelessness in LA.

However, what is clear is that homelessness in California is not primarily driven by transplants moving there, whether for the weather or for liberal policies or any other reason. Granted this doesn’t explain dynamics within different areas within LA county…

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Interesting.

A couple of other dimensions that I would be curious about in terms of their impact behind the scenes - 1) it’s hard to get a good picture of state-by-state changes to the various safety nets that keep people afloat...be it housing subsidies, beds at inpatient psychiatric facilities, welfare, drug treatment programs etc. If people teetering on the edge lose access to food stamps, or some other support service they had formerly relied on, that could send them into a spiral that leads to the street. 2) changes in drug environment - the advent of fentanyl, oxy, spread of meth, the loosening of drug laws, the stand-down by police after George Floyd etc

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This is my understanding as well.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

I'm perhaps the most intense criminal justice reform person I know, but the "stand around and watch the guy ransacking the CVS" thing is the most derangedly stupid shit I've ever seen. No functional version of the state can allow that.

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This sounds like the same attitude you usually hear from hard-left folks: "If you're not going to solve Problem X completely, then I'm not interested in making things somewhat better. The only acceptable solution is to adopt my entire worldview on this."

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Perhaps a progressive cohort that gets involved more in every day policing would be able to convince other reformers to take a more realistic stance on those policy issues. That is why Matt made the point about how TFA experience shifts the views of reformers.

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I was about to make a similar comment. A knock-on effect would ideally involve changing the progressive consensus around what the realities on the ground are as well as realistic solutions.

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Maybe the housing costs make policing in SF a really shitty job choice.

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Agree, but the crime and homelessness problem in San Francisco is a totally different beast than, say, violent crime in Oakland.

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> I don't think the situation is bad because the cops aren't smart enough.

Do you think it might be bad because the smarts aren't cop enough?

This could help with that too

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What's the evidence those two things are the causes of crime and homelessness? I'm skeptical.

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founding

It seems plausible that not prosecuting shoplifting and drug use is the explanation for a surge in shoplifting and drug use. It seems less plausible that it would be behind a rise in other crimes.

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And to add as a bleeding heart, the existence of the punishment matters much more than the harshness of the punishment.

The SF shoplifting problem, which as someone who lives here is subjectively a major problem from my perspective, is primarily due to total non-enforcementy.

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I agree with David R that Matt's proposal doesn't target the problems in SF. But it seems to me the problems David is raising are basically policy and public health problems, not policing problems.

So long as Matt's proposal doesn't have negative impact on the homeless/drug/mental illness issues in SF (which it doesn't seem to), I don't think the fact that it doesn't address those problems is a flaw.

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I'd like to see cops having more stringent fitness requirements and requirements for more hand-to-hand combat training.

I'm a squishy, blue-state, center-left liberal that does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and there are a lot of cops in these classes. One of the things that comes up when I talk to them in the wake of shootings by police (and my gym is in a city with a VERY high-profile police shooting in the last few years, so it has come up a lot, as you can imagine) is that some of them think that some of these officers go to their guns too quickly at least in part because they are worried about being overwhelmed physically in a struggle situation.

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That's a great point. I heard an MMA expert talk about this once. He said it's plain in some of the videos that the cops aren't confident in their grappling skills and resort to guns as a result. Sam Harris made a similar point - that while everyone was banning chokeholds, they were safely being practiced in thousands of martial arts studios by people who were well trained. In short, the training is a major problem.

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LEOs can't confidently grapple with suspects because they're carrying guns on their person, which could then be taken away from them at close quarters. It's quite different

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Psychiatric nurses are trained to restrain violent, mentally disturbed people without killing them. It seems as if that training should be mandatory for beat cops as well.

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From what I've heard this is mostly a funding issue. I'd be curious if Police Unions would be more in favor or opposed, but it seems likely to me that most policemen and women would like that kind of training, if I had to guess.

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Yeah, me personally, I would prefer my tax dollars be spent on this as opposed to buying, like, surplus military gear for photos for the 'gram.

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Yes, PFA can be good, but mostly for one reason. I doubt the numbers will suffice to solve staffing shortages or changes the culture in most places . What it will do though, over time, is get young progressives out of their bubble a bit, force them to see the complexity of the world and develop more nuanced views sooner (or ever). Not only would they change, but hopefully they will somewhat influence and change their families and friends (“my brother/roommate in college etc. is/was a cop”). Anything that can help america break out a bit from the polarization trap that makes everyone frankly really really dumb would be very important.

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Said this just above, but I think we're all in agreement here. The post mentioned this in the last paragraph before mentioning Wendy Kopp.

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You should invite Graham Factor onto "Bad Takes" to explain why this would never work.

(This is not a joke. He can be reached at his Substack gmail address even though he's on hiatus.)

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Graham's on hiatus? Once again, a cop is not around when you need one. 😁

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Yes, a thousand times, yes! This is the bullshit article that just get me to unsubscribe from Matt's Substack. First of all, it is extremely elitist and class-based. I'm going to suggest that most of the cops in Seattle have 4-year degree, though not from the elite schools whom the writer seems to idolize. I'm for an educated police force, but I question whether Matt has a moment's understanding about what the daily life of a cop is? How often would these elite grads be comfortable walking through human excrement and needles into a homeless encampment? (No, not all are dangerous; yes, some homeless are down on their luck; yes, 25% of murders in Seattle take place in these settings.)

The advantage of getting Graham's point of view is that he actually has a working knowledge of what it means to be a police officer, and he doesn't over-simplify either the training or the complex culture of 18,000 police forces.

If you would like some other referrals to smart, educated police officers whom you can run your ideas by, let me know. You can't be an expert on everything by reading data.

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I wish you were sticking around to provide counterpoints rather than un-subbing.

Fwiw I can't entirely guess what's in Matt's head, but a generous read would be that the classist and elitist nature is there because those are the people that need to be more in touch with what police work is, and they are much more likely, whether we like it or not, to go on to other influential careers in government and policy-making. Just look at the degree backgrounds of Senators and congress people and supreme court justices for reference on that if you don't believe me. I didn't get the sense he though it was he believed they could do policing better

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I'll probably stick around.

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How often would these elite grads be comfortable working with whiney and needy children all day? How often would they be willing to forgo freedom to go to the bathroom when they need to? How often would they be willing to do a job without the kinds of support and training that a more typical workplace provides.

Matt's who point to this piece -- or one of his two points -- was that TFA got people who wouldn't otherwise consider a couple years slumming it as a teacher to give it a shot. Part of the model is that it's a low investment avenue to the classroom.

Being a teacher is incredibly difficult, demeaning and even dangerous. It is a daily effort in frustration and powerlessness. And yet, TFA got a small % of elite college graduates to give it a shot.

Why do you think that the difficulty or working conditions of being a cop make it uniquely different?

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I guess as a retired teacher, from a family of teachers I think you may have a slightly different view of the profession.

1) We all went to a flagship state university. Our parents had graduate degrees from the elitest of the elite. Noone thought we were "slumming" to work in the honorable profession of teaching. If that is the view of those in the so-called elite, it is truly disturbing. Hopefully, you speak for yourself.

2) Maybe you don't like kids. Don't teach (and hopefully, don't parent.) To characterize them primarily as "whiney and needy"? Hmmm. You might also characterize them as curious, quirky, challenging, developing, learning and ... human.

3) Criminals, too, are human. I don't deny that. I suspect,writ large, I would rather work with children. And while there are a few kids who can be dangerous (my brother worked with a really rough cohort), I think proportionately, teachers are in less physical danger than police.

I'm not a fan of TFA, either, though I haven't had much contact with it in years. Bringing in the elites, especially if we define them as such, opens up the question of what do they have to offer? I can see, in a subject matter-rich segment of K-12 education, like high school, if they were naturally skilled at teaching, their intellectual acumen and knowledge might make them good additions to the teaching force. What skills, talents and knowledge would these elites bring to policing, which is intensely team-based and requires types of intelligence and knowledge that are not distinctly academic bring to policing?

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You clearly misunderstand, so I guess I wasn't clear.

1) I am a former high school teacher. I love kids, especially teenagers. There are many things about them that drive most adults crazy but I think are awesome. Nonetheless, I knew going it in that's a very difficult job, full of frustrations.

2) If you don't think kids are needy then YOU shouldn't have taught. The whole point of teaching -- and parenting -- is to see their needs be met. Teaching is not a job that one can do well without being centered on others. It is work that is built around the personal, emotional and intellectual needs of children.

3) No one on my family every thought I was slumming it by going into teaching. I come from a culture and family that values teachers. My maternal grandmother was a school secretary and my mother an elementary school teacher. And yet, I can acknowledge that we live in a wide culture that devalues teaching and greatly values professionals that have the potential for far high monetary earnings. Look at the number of elite college graduates who go into high paying professions and non-professional jobs (e.g., management consulting). Part of the basic design of TfA -- whether you like it or not -- was about addressing that. Now, I didn't get to the classroom through TfA. I always intended to teach and graduated from college fully certified (something that took a LOT of extra work). But, again, I can acknowledge reality.

4) I was arguing against the idea that *working* *conditions* of being a cop make the job so uniquely awful that PfA couldn't possibly work. I don't think that the daily working condition of police work are necessary worse than those that TfA corps members face. Teaching is hard and the conditions in those schools make it much much harder.

5) I have commented here that I think that there ARE problems with this conceptualization of Police for America. I just don't think that working conditions are one of them.

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As envisioned, yea, I can't see a PFA program working. But the potential benefits are there, which makes it worthwhile to envision variations that will work. The notion of an ROTC-analogue that feeds into police forces is something with merit, IMO.

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Adam Walinsky, a former RFK aide, had program like that called the Police Corps. Tried for years to get major federal funding—finally got a little. Then fuzzled away. One major problem: police generally hated it. Idea of “better” types of people—college educated etc—coming in to the ranks was offensive, demeaning. Identifying them as some kind of distinctive “corps” may have attracted some different recruits—but understandably alienated everyone else.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

This all seems fine and correct, but the most successful implementation of this I can possibly imagine seems like it would be the most marginal of marginal reforms. The fundamental problem here, as with many state failures, is that we are vastly over criminalized but under enforced in ways that are absolutely foundational too our model of policing. "Effective" policing in America is entirely about using low level, non-crime offenses to carry out pretextual searches that rightfully violate the 4th amendment. As long as things like traffic violations, disorderly conduct, selling loose cigarettes, and various "possession" statutes are on the books enabling police fishing expeditions, the most cost effective means of policing will be to maximize those fishing expeditions, no matter how well intentioned the patrol officers in question.

Successful reform requires taking pretextual offenses off the books and pouring resources into vastly expanded investigative capacity to meaningfully improve closure rates on things like say car theft, as well as major crimes.

Patrol level policing should be focused almost entirely on minimizing 911 response times.

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Wait, are you suggesting that traffic violations, disorderly conduct, and tax evasion (viz., selling loose cigarettes) should just...not be enforced? Or do you foresee some different manner of enforcement with reduced scope for search incident to arrest for them?

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

I mean, I have extremist libertarian fantasies where traffic violations can mostly be handled by insurance companies and police enforcement should solely involve charging people for things like reckless endangerment instead of doing revenue generation via poorly tailored proxy citations, but they certainly shouldn't be allowed to use traffic tickets to manufacture searches and civil forfeitures. Disorderly conduct is an entirely bullshit charge for when cops don't want to have to collect evidence of actual crimes. Vice taxes on tobacco are similarly illegitimate to the various other possession/prohibition crimes.

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Are insurance companies pulling people over for speeding in this fantasy? All speeding is reckless endangerment so I'm fine with the status quo on traffic violations. And I find it confusing that you want more enforcement but also want to eliminate a major opportunity for enforcement.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

Speed limits are an extremely shitty proxy for safe driving. They're often poorly calibrated for the roads, let alone when you have to account for traffic, weather and the vast range of vehicles.

Edit: If speeding is reckless endangerment then we should stop writing tickets and start sending people to jail, but that's obvious horseshit so we don't do that.

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Speeding kills a lot of people. Speeding is also very good proxy for the damage that will be caused by an accident. We are actually under-enforcing speeding and it should carry harsher penalties than it does.

Also allowing easy evasion of tobacco rules could kill thousands long-term.

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*Driving too fast* results in many accidents and deaths. How fast is too fast is rarely calibrated to the posted speed limit.

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I'm pretty skeptical that a significant number of college educated people are going to do want to do a fundamentally blue collar job. Policing involves physical violence, along with vomit and other bodily fluids and general grossness. It requires some degree of courage, at least in a large metro area. You see some of the worst aspects of human behavior. I think this is just fundamentally different from teaching children.

The real reform American policing needs is just more consequences for bad behavior. I'm not 100% sure where I land on making it easier to fire bad cops, but more than anything we need independent prosecutors who are willing to charge obvious crimes by LEOs caught on camera. The solution is mostly just to arrest the bad guys. Part of the FBI's fundamental mission right now includes investigating local corruption (paying off the mayor or alderman for a permit, etc.) It should broaden to explicitly include arresting bad cops given a free pass by their local prosecutor.

As lots of cops & right-leaning people will tell you, the solution to law and order issues is usually just locking up the bad guys. The solution to bad LEO behavior should generally be prosecution, not touchy-feely attempts to make their culture nicer or what have you

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Plenty of elite people sign up to be doctors, which involves fluids and grossness. But the prestige levels are very different.

But anyways, this is why liberal America's attacks on policing are so off-putting to me, personally. People who would otherwise refrain from judging people with tough jobs seem willing to condemn an entire profession that they would never sign up for themselves. If you couldn't do the job yourself maybe have a little humility when criticizing it?

I'm also not entirely sure the more consequences thing is the heart of the problem. One of my takeaways from GrahamFactor's writing is that plenty of consequences already do happen, but those are seldom reported on, if ever. He provided stats on disciplines that took place in Seattle (his prior place of employment) and they were both more than I would have expected in total number and lower than I would have expected as a rate.

To compare to teaching and medicine, of the three professions it's entirely possible that policing has the most accountability and the lowest error rate. Surgeons and doctors kill tens of thousands of people every year through malpractice and routine mistakes and malpractice removes most of the personal accountability, but we accept that as a society because there's no obvious better alternative and we generally trust doctors and surgeons to be trying their bests.

Likewise with teaching, I've had teachers that should definitely have been fired ,but nothing happened, and accountability in most forms are resisted by unions. But the Left still trusts teachers since although now many on the right do not.

In policing, the Left has lost that trust as the profession, but that loss of trust seems more about narrative and partisanship than hard data. I imagine a similar thing would happen if doctors and surgeons started voting for only one party.

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I hit reply to challenge you on what looked to me like an excessively high and unsupported "tens of thousands" claim. Then I Googled it: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-america.html

So I guess I now take the position that you are waaaay underplaying it. ;-)

Those are mind boggling numbers.

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I agree with your first point. Day-to-day policing is mostly boring, annoying, and/or disgusting. Completing police reports for insurance claims. Responding to drunken domestic disputes. Dealing with the clearly psychotic guy who keeps peeing on passers-by. Necessary but thankless work, even when it's not actively dangerous. The PFAs wouldn't be qualified to do interesting investigative work. They'd be pulling people over.

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When I was in law school at prestigious public school one of my classmates opted to join the LAPD over working as an attorney. He definitely did so with the ambition to move up through the ranks to leadership in shortish order but it was a very controversial choice but I one that I mostly admired (this was in 1998 and LAPD was still seen as quite a corrupt agency with little respect for civil rights and liberties -- the O.J. verdict is in 1995). Since then I have often thought that there should be a more regularized pathway from legal training not just to being a DA, but also into policing.

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This might work even better if the program had a gender balance requirement. Women cops have been shown to use unnecessary force less often, and their presence probably changes the behavior of their male colleagues as well.

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I listened to a podcast on this a while ago (I could try to find it...might have been Tyler Cowen), that made the opposite point. While women are generally much less violent than men, female cops are (1) not the median woman, and (2) situated so as to elicit more violent behavior. Basically, the expert's point was that you can take a bunch of social workers and make them do police work, and they will start to behave like police. It's the situation, not the individual psychology. Not sure I buy this 100%, but it seemed plausible.

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This Washington Post story suggests that the evidence is mixed:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/interactive/2022/women-police-nebraska/

But here's one study, at least (I found the link in the WP piece) that confirms my priors, showing that women and people of color are less likely to use force against civilians, especially black civilians:

https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abd8694?itid=lk_inline_enhanced-template

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Have you watched Flint Town? It's a Netflix documentary on the Police in Flint, Michigan, and it does a pretty good job of showing police work in an unbiased way.

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absolutely, 100% correct. womens company is elevating.

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I'm leery of using police recruitment as social engineering, a way to give elites the "right" ideas about policing. It also has a built-in assumption that elite college grads will do a better, more humane job of wielding a gun than anyone else.

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I very much agree with your second caveat, and I feel this is a strong bias MY has. I do however think it should be balanced with the benefit of them doing a better job of opening the eyes of their fellow elites to the world (as I said in my main comment), so the idea is not without merit for that reason imo.

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I like Matt a lot. I subscribe here for a reason and read him almost 20 years ago. But in a lot of ways the really does want a world were everything is controlled by UCLA/UofChicago/Harvard grads

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yep. His perspective is rather limited, shall we say, and that certainly detracts from his analysis to varying degrees depending on the topic and the take.

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It's not a question of whether they would be better or worse at welding a gun, it's whether they would be better or worse at making use of force decisions. We make the same assumption when we send the best students to West Point and put them in charge of our platoons instead of just promoting sergeants.

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"We make the same assumption when we send the best students to West Point and put them in charge of our platoons instead of just promoting sergeants."

Why would you expect a 22 year old rookie to make better use of force decisions than a 10 year vet whose actually been successful enough to be promoted to sergeant? You wouldn't - which is why most LTs are told to do what their sergeant "suggests" until they have learned enough to know their ass from their elbow.

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To be fair, Matt does cite studies finding that higher educated police officers do use less force.

Not really familiar with the literature myself so can't say whether they've done all the appropriate controls, etc.

Also doubt a force made up of all highly educated officers would be the panacea many on the left think it would.

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I am fortunate that I do not have to deal with the police, but among my few interactions were not positive. Someone broke into my car and stole a bunch of things. To be clear: I was dumb. I left my car outside, and had my window cracked open. In a way, you could say I was asking for it. The police showed up, took a report, and then...did nothing. They stole a laptop, and I had the location using the "Find My Apple Device" service and they refused to go. They told me to call if I got another ping (since my ping was several hours old), and when it changed I called the cop. No answer. Called the mainline. No answer. Called again, got someone who said they would resend the officer back to my house to reinterview me before they visit the house. No cop ever came.

The only thing they said was my car license had expired. Not very helpful.

Overall, I respect cops and think they have a thankless job. I go out of my way to appreciate their work. But when they literally do nothing to prevent crime it becomes very difficult to sympathize with them.

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Genuinely curious about the legalities of this situation (not to discount the possibility of the police being lazy and/or overwhelmed); I know most federal agents can make arrests for any misdemeanors they personally observe and for all felonies with reasonable evidence to support PC (i.e someone tells you "this guy just stabbed someone" and you see the man with blood on his hands). What is the legal status of a FMAD ping? Would that support a search warrant for your average judge? If we assume the average MacBook exceeds the common $1K threshold for felony theft, can a cop perform a search of a structure or vehicle without consent if he believes the ping is legit?

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Their reasoning was that since it was several hours old there was no point in going because it likely wasn’t there. That was what the cop told me to my face almost verbatim

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This sounds like a bad West Wing parody.

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I like this, but I don’t think that entrants into a program like this would necessarily need to be sent to high-crime areas for this to be effective. Specifically with regard to the problem of excessive right-wing domination of law-enforcement, having more progressive police anywhere would be a benefit—even if they worked in relatively lower crime areas.

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I don't get why MY is saying the police are "right wing". It makes it sound like they want tax cuts for the rich and hate CRT and watch Fox News and things like that. But that's not what's going on. They're voting for Republicans by large margins, which is a recent change, likely driven by the partisan polarization of views of their profession. I doubt hiring a bunch of progressive college graduates would change that very much at all.

I think graham's article on this explained the dynamic very well:

https://grahamfactor.substack.com/p/why-are-cops-so-conservative

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Isn’t the theoretical problem that the police would go along with a right wing coup? Regardless of the exact reasons for why this seems like a problem to solve. Maybe police-for-america isn’t the solution but a solution seems needed.

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Well theoretically I'm not sure how that would because the average cop has no powers over the machinery of elections or of the state.

If hypothetically, a bunch of people tried to take over the US Capital building I guess we could see what happens...

In either case, talking about the police like they are the literal enemy, which is not at all uncommon in D circles, isn't helpful in the theoretical or actual future.

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I think shifting some progressives into policing would be a net benefit but I'm not particularly concerned about a police coup.

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“Isn’t the theoretical problem that the police would go along with a right wing coup?”

That’s not so much a “theoretical problem” as a failure of your imagination.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

I feel this article buried the lede of how out of control American police are. The section is quite something:

"Many if not most departments seem to have a deeply ingrained warrior mentality that emphasizes dominance rather than service. Policing has become so politicized that the overwhelming majority of officers, even in very liberal areas, are right-wing and often seem to have barely disguised disdain for the citizens they nominally serve, and not-at-all disguised disdain for the politicians elected to run their cities"

I get that PFA is the sort of incremental response to that problem beloved by Matt, but it does feel an order of magnitude too small.

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This gets at the chicken and egg question under the whole policing debate: are American police the way they are (ie, more armed and violent than in comparably wealthy countries) because the American people are the way they are (ie, more armed and violent than in comparably wealthy countries), or the other way around?

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How would “the other way round” make sense ?

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Personally, I think "the other way around" is what happened. The spike in organized drug crime in the 80s led to changes in police culture, but when the crime rate started to drop by 1992, the changes in law and policing kept accelerating. More mandatory minimums, more SWAT teams, more military equipment. Broken windows policing and stop-and-frisk policing migrated from out of the big cities into suburbs and smaller cities. That "warriors under siege" mentality and killology training grew and continued unabated, despite fifteen years of lowering crime rates.

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Does this track with rates of police violence though? My understanding is that at least in the NYPD there used to be dramatically more shootings in the 70s than there have been since. I am against militarized police and blue lives matter stuff but I'm not sure it's a clean match with the data.

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It was always a job that attracted more than its fair share of bullies and people who view the world in black and white.

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I think what changed is body cams and video cameras on everyone’s person

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Good question. But that seems nonetheless to be the underlying premise of a lot of police reform discussion. Assuming "the other way round" does not make sense, however, probably requires accepting that American policing will necessarily be rougher commensurate with the roughness of the people, and that until the people change, the goal of police reforms should be to curb the worst abuses especially those affecting innocent people rather than total transformation into the kind of policing that might work in more peaceful societies.

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

What do you mean by “the people”? Police in America is armed to the teeth because the people are but that’s not some unchanging primordial condition. That’s government gun policy. That’s just one example. So you can reform “the people” in that sense though I wouldn’t frame it like that.

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They've turned to violence to protect themselves from the cops!

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America is more violent than many European countries though, in part because they sent many of their more violent people to America. Yes there is a higher murder rate committed with firearms in America than in Europe, but there is also a higher murder rate using knives, strangling, beating, and vehicles.

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Australians seem pretty docile.

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It's also unsupported by any evidence. These two lines stand out to me:

"often seem to have barely disguised disdain for the citizens they nominally serve" - I know progressives believe his almost like a religious tenet, but I've never seen evidence for this outside of reading progressive online. Is it true some places, among some police? Probably, maybe, I don't know...but it seems like a bold accusation to make if MY doesn't have evidence to support it beyond a hunch or anecdotes from hist local area.

"are right-wing" - what do we think right-wing means? Vote Republican in the latest election? If so, we should just say that. But right-wing implies to me people who are politically active and supporting of politicians not just on the right, but, you know, on the right-wing. Way to the right. I've seen a lot of evidence that police began voting to the right as Democrat politicians started to treat their profession as the root of all evil, but not that they are becoming "right wing"

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Sep 26, 2022·edited Sep 26, 2022

So, I think you are wrong, but I will agree that claims of the strength Matt made in that section would benefit from more substantiation

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Binya, I doubt either of us want more crime / more police shooting / more people locked up and likely we disagree on where the tradeoffs and solutions are.

I'd be open to reading / listening / watching sources of information that have formed your opinion on these topics.

I'll share a couple that have shaped my opinion in case you're interested in reading seeing something that might challenge your views a bit, and again, I'm sincerely interested if you have something to share that would challenge mine.

Books:

Criminal (In)Justice by Rafael Mangual: data-heavy, substantial critique on the Left's standard narratives around incarceration.

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy: In-depth look at how policing and culture interact in South Central Los Angeles

TV and Youtube:

Flint Town: Fairly unbiased Netflix documentary on policing in Flint Michigan.

What Killed Michael Brown: Documentary by a "small c" Black Filmmaker on the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson.

A guy named Peter Santenello puts out these videos where he gets toured around interesting neighborhoods in a very in-depth, ground level way. Here are 3 in high-crime areas of LA that could be eye-opening:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CM0_is3Gfg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKutkXy1Eeo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Be3kNAbl1Eg

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The thing I struggle with, you wrote in another comment, is that with so many cops around, the occasional outrage reveals nothing, it'd be more surprising if it didn't happen. So a more systematic treatment is appropriate. I appreciate the suggestions, obviously not necessarily ones I can digest instantly.

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Have you reported a crime before? They laugh at you and do nothing.

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My experience has been very different, but that's how anecdotes work.

But this goes back to one of my major criticisms of the police reform movement - all the arguments have become nationalized, but most of the decisions that impact community relations are very local.

There are over 1,700 police agencies in the country operating under 50 state laws (plus DC, PR, territorial and tribal nation laws). They all have different hiring practices, training practices and cultures. The communities they work in vary hugely. Some (most) work in low crime areas where some aspects of policing are easy and violent suspects rare. For others it's the opposite.

I'm sorry that's been your experience with the police in your area(s). But it's not that relevant to a conversation about policing nationally. Wherever police are ignoring calls and laughing at callers that should be improved. But saying that's every police dispatcher is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

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My car was stolen once in Memphis and another time in King County, WA, ten times apart, and had the same reaction from police. I mean they took reports, but had no intention of doing anything, including getting surveillance camera footage from the parking lot

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This is exactly the kind of anecdote I was not interested in. There are 1,700 law enforcement agencies and 700,000 officers. Yglesias seems to be making a broad claim about most or all of them. That a scandal happened involving a dozen officers in Torrance is really not that persuasive. I'm sure we could find other professions, particularly among professions that deal daily with some of the worst people at the bottom rungs of the social-economic-scale, with some members who are also exchanging racist texts somewhere out there. it doesn't mean that most police "often have a barely disguised disdain".

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